Dr Dara Hume

Ground yourself in community and create a social network

Cavan GP, Dr Dara Hume, has an important message promoting positive mental health and well being...

Isn't Ireland just the most beautiful country when the sun shines? And even when it doesn't? Forty shades of green and all that! I'm blessed to live near a number of lakes, so invigorating walks, glorious scenery, interesting nature to observe, and swimming in the lake (weather permitting) are all on my doorstep. In this county of 'more lakes than days of the year', it's just a matter of exploring your local area to discover what's out there.

A widowed friend of mine was recently laid up with a nasty fracture. She couldn't drive, do the shopping, cook, even dress without assistance. She remarked how blessed she felt and how, only for the goodness and kindness of the friends, family and neighbours, her recovery might not have gone so well. (Saying that, the same lady has the determination of two people, and a 'get on with it attitude' that is truly inspiring!

She told me that she felt the reason she had such a helpful bunch of people around her, was due to her being involved in the community. This set me thinking...

What is really important to us in our lives? In years to come, if we were to reflect on our lives, will we say that we wish we had worked harder, or longer hours, wish that we had made more money, lived in a bigger house or drove a fancier car? I very much doubt it. In fact, I suspect it will be quite the opposite. So, let's all do a simple exercise - try to imagine yourself in your 80s, telling a small child what you felt went well in your life, what you feel most proud of, what you're glad you did.

It would be wonderful to be able to say that you're most proud of your family, not your job, that you're happy you perhaps took risks, did fun things, helped people, hopefully made people happy, enjoyed life and lived life to the full. None of these things actually cost any money (well unless parachute/bungee jumping are on your bucket list of risks to take!). But taking a chance on people, getting involved in local events, perhaps charity work, getting to actually know your neighbours, helping out in the locality, all of these things help us to get involved in the communities in which we live in and help make us whole.

So, who are these central people in our lives who will help us out when we're in trouble? Most of us have five to 10 people in our world we trust, who know us really well, but who don't know all our secrets. These are our close confidantes, those we can share our worries and concerns with, and those we trust to help us alleviate our anxieties and issues. These close friends don't tend to markedly change through our lives, unless they move away but, even at that, are available to us via phone or media links.

However our world can also extend greatly outside of this to include those we simply chat to over the fence, or in the supermarket, or when out walking. People who we may not share our deepest thoughts with, but who we are delighted to see, and spend a few minutes of our time in their company. Both groups are so important in our lives, to sustain us through good and bad times.

To immerse ourselves in our communities can be relatively easy if you are involved in GAA, rugby, soccer or other sports, as you meet others at matches, collecting kids, grandkids etc. However, if you are not involved in sport, there are a myriad of other organisations - Men's Sheds or Hen's Sheds, Tidy Towns, Comhaltas, clubs and societies like gardening, crafting, walking, also St Vincent de Paul, SOSAD, Civil Defence, Good Morning programme etc. By becoming involved in our communities, we meet our neighbours, we make friends (often for life), we feel good about ourselves, we have an opportunity to help others, and we build social bridges that sustain us, especially as we get older, just like my friend mentioned above.

These are the people who ground us, who make life worthwhile.

So please, try not to have regrets in life, try to live life to its fullest, drop by on neighbours, especially those living alone, get involved in things in your community, reach out to those you know need help, and aim to be able to look back in your 80s and say in the immortal words of Frank Sinatra 'Let the record show, I took the blows, and I did it my way'.

Take care, and stay safe out there.

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